Tuesday, January 4, 2022
Bible & Archaeology (University of Iowa)

Q: According to the Book of Genesis, who was created first: man/Adam or the other animals?

a) man/Adam
b) other animals
c) trick question: they were created at the exact same time
d) trick question: the Bible says each was created first in two different stories

 

 

A: d

According to the Creation account in Genesis 1, God creates all living beings BEFORE creating humans. After creating the Earth and its environment, God creates sea-dwelling creatures and birds on Day 5 (Gen. 1:20–23), and then he creates all of the land animals on Day 6 (Gen. 1:24–25), followed by creating humankind (Gen. 1:26–28), making humanity the last and greatest achievement of God's creation.

However, according to Genesis 2, God creates man/Adam first (Gen. 2:7), and then plants a garden for the man to dwell in (Gen. 2:8), and then realizes the man/Adam was lonely, and so in Gen. 2:19, "Out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and bird of the air and brought them to the man..." (וַיִּצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים מִן-הָאֲדָמָה כָּל-חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה וְאֵת כָּל-עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וַיָּבֵא אֶל-הָאָדָם). Note that the Hebrew expressly says that in response to the man's/Adam's loneliness, God then "formed" (Hebrew: ויצר, from the root yod-tsade-resh, meaning "to form, fashion, or create"), and then "brought" (Hebrew: ויבא, the causative form of the root bet-waw-aleph, meaning "to bring") the animals and birds to the man, clearly indicating that in the Genesis 2 account, the animals were created after man/Adam. Clearly, the animals did not provide the kind of companionship that the man/Adam needed. Only then did God create woman/Eve (Gen. 2:21–22).

So according to Genesis 1, land animals were created before man/Adam, but according to Genesis 2, land animals were formed after the man/Adam.

And just so we're clear, the creation account in Genesis 2 is not a stylistic retelling of Genesis 1—some attempt to explain Genesis 1 as the "how" and Genesis 2 as the "why," or an attempt to couch Genesis 2 as a recap or a highlight reel of the Genesis 1 account, nor is Genesis 1 a "prologue" or "general overview" of the actual creation account in Genesis 2. These are not the case. Genesis 1 is far too technical and precise to be a "prologue," likely because priests wrote it, and priests tend to be rather exacting about details and the consequences if those details are not followed to the letter. This is why Genesis 1 is so granular about the specificity of the precise days on which things happened. It's not some "general prologue." These are two completely different creation accounts. Let me give you a few examples.

In Genesis 1, God takes six days to create "the heavens and the earth." However, Genesis 2:4–7, suggest that man was created on the same day that God created "the earth and the heavens. Read it. Verse four says, "On the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens," and verse seven continues, "The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground." So not only is man created before the animals in Genesis 2, but apparently man is created on the same day that God created the earth and the heavens in Genesis 2, as opposed to Genesis 1, where the heavens and earth are created on Day 1, and man is created on Day 6.

Likewise, Genesis 2:5-6 tells us that, "No plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up," when God  created man in Genesis 2:7, while Genesis 1:11 expressly states that God created the earth's vegetation on Day 3, well before the creation of humankind on Day 6.

These are two separate creation accounts—one in which animals were created before humans (Genesis 1), and one in which animals were created after the man/Adam (Genesis 2).